No matter what, speak with loving kindness and compassion

A friend asked me the other day if I am slow to anger or a quick outburst kind of person.

It takes a lot for me to move into anger, I told them. Generally, I’m able to recognize what’s mine and what’s not and figure out what I am powerful enough to effect, or not, and to let what I can’t change go. But, social injustice, mistreatment of people I care about, well, that’s another matter.

When my daughters were in  school they dreaded telling me anything untoward that may have happened in the classroom, especially if it involved a teacher calling them out or questioning their integrity. They knew I’d be there in a flash, flying in on my broom, sweeping away any obstacles that got in the way of my righting the wrong and setting the perpetrator straight. Years after graduating my youngest daughter told me she went so far as to log her cell phone number with the high school so that she could vet any calls. And I wondered why there were no parent/teacher interviews! 🙂

What I perceive to be social injustice is a hot bottom for me. I can deal with what I judge to be sheer stupidity — when people know better they do better.  I do not do well with unkindness and unfairness to others.

The same holds true in the workplace. I can handle heavy workloads, tight deadlines, sudden changes and even uncertainty in direction.

I do not do unfair treatment of fellow staff members well.

I have worked for many organizations where management claims people are their priority, that they are their greatest asset and always, their actions are the proof of the value and integrity of their words. And while I don’t think it is a hard tenet to live by — that people come first — I have found that many organizations struggle with walking the talk.

My challenge isn’t what other people are doing. It’s what am I doing about it? Am I aligned with my values and principles or am I off-side? Am I walking my talk or taking a side-trip to the land of no integrity?

I believe people, all people, deserve to be treated with integrity, fairness and kindness. I believe it is a measure of my worth how I respect other people’s worth. I have the right to my anger, I do not have the right to be cruel because, no matter the circumstances, I am always responsible for how I express anger and fear or any kind of emotion.

I am 100% responsible and accountable for me and I trust you to be 100% responsible and accountable for you.

And here’s the rub, sometimes, I forget about trusting in the responsibility and accountability of the other party. Sometimes, I think it’s all up to me. Sort of like how I used to believe I was responsible for starving children around the world and women being raped in war-torn lands. I think I need to fix it all.

I am not that powerful.

My job is to be true to me. To walk my talk. To stand in my values and principles and know that I am aligned. It’s not about judging your values and principles, it’s about recognizing where I am compromising or undermining mine and acknowledging what I’m willing to do to bring myself back into alignment — and then to do it.

I have been struggling with a situation in my life that is not sitting well with me.

It’s not about what other’s are doing. People will do what people will do. It’s about what am I willing to do to speak up, to strive for better. Am I willing to engage in the conversation? Am I willing to step into the discord and speak my truth, fearlessly, lovingly, compassionately? Am I willing to walk my talk?

For me, it begins with acknowledging what lies heavy on my heart and being willing to step outside the comfort of silence to be heard. As I’ve written here before, my job is to turn up, pay attention, speak my truth and stay unattached to the outcome.

Not always easy when I am emotionally engaged in judging who’s right, who’s wrong and what they need to do to change. From where I stand in stubborn, self-righteous, indignation, there’s little room for honest conversation.

Time to get off my high horse and step onto terra firma where I am grounded in the truth that my experience begins with me. To have my best experience I must let go of judgements and speak up with loving kindness and compassion.

 

Letting go of waves of discord

I have hit a wall. Come up against myself backing away from… the brink. the edge. the precipice of the known. It is here that I find myself hesitating at the lip of speaking up, speaking out against the things that disturb my peace of mind, the things that create unease within my heart.

They are not worldly matters, these things against which I rail. But they are matters of the world. They are mirrors of what is happening on a grander scale in far points of the world. And they matter, to me.

And what matters to me is important because if I do not take care of what matters to me, if I do not acknowledge what causes me distress, I become distressed. And then, my ripple becomes uneasy. It becomes more seas tossing in fitful bursts of acting out than my desire of ripples gracefully moving out into the limitless possibility of life sailing along on calm waters creating the change I want to be in the world.

blog

This wall I have hit, it is not of bricks and mortar. It is of the mind. It is found in that state of being where I am silent in the face of unfair treatment or injustice.

And, it is found in those spaces where I have let go of doing the things I know that center me, balance my energies and bring me calm. I have let go of my inner balance and allowed myself to slip into the ennui of telling myself, what difference does it make? Why does it matter if I don’t meditate this morning or don’t journal tonight? What difference does it make if I just let it go and be ‘normal’? Why can’t I just settle?

Don’t get me wrong. It is not one thing that has caused my ennui, it is many.

And here’s the thing. It is not the external factors that are contributing to my unease. It is my internal resistance to doing the things I know bring me peace of mind. It is my internal ‘brat’ acting out in ‘why bother’ land that is causing me unease.

The world is what the world is. And we are all the world.

In my world, what matters most for me, and to me, is that within me, within my internal world, I am turning up without giving into tuning out.

And I have been tuning out. I have been willfully disregarding the voice of reason, the voice that would have me believe I am capable of creating peace in my world. In my tuned out state I have been making room for the voice of doubt. The voice that would have me believe that doing nothing is more powerful than staying balanced, present and conscious.

Sometimes, I need to give way to believing there’s nothing I can do to find myself awakening again to the truth. Everything I do matters. Even in the not doing I am making a choice to either create more, or less of what I want in the world.

In my remembering of the power of my choices, I am reminded once again of the power I possess to make love, not war. To create harmony not discord. And it is in the taking action FOR my choices that I create the ripple I desire in the world.

I have been giving into my disordered thinking, my out of balance perspective that I am but a drop of water in the ocean.

As Mother Teresa once said, We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.

Thing is, when we are on this earth, we are all drops of water in the ocean. When I am letting my drop be one of discord, or inertia, or ennui, I am not missing from the ocean, I am creating a ripple of unease that can become a wave of discord in a world of disharmony all around me.

This morning, I let go of resistance and begin again.

Always begin again.

 

 

When nothing is ever the same again.

I am at a loss for words. I am lost in words tumbling around my mind like socks turning around and around inside a dryer. They are white, these words I cling to. I surrender. I give up. I give in.

I cannot create peace in a world of hatred. I cannot stop hatred from erupting in a world of intolerance.

On my way to a meeting yesterday, after I wrote my blog, I tune into CBC RAdio in my car and there it was, this breaking news story that would catapult my country into fear, dismay, uncertainty.

“Nothing will ever be the same,” reads one headline this morning. And I am afraid it is true.

Terror has struck home.

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a 24 year old reservist standing guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Ottawa, our capital, is gunned down in broad daylight by a fellow Canadian. A 32 year old man who allegedly than ran into the Centre Block of Parliament and started firing. A gun battle ensued and he is shot dead.

It is the second day that a member of Canada’s armed forces is killed by reported supporters of ISIL. It is the second act of terror on our soil this week.

And nothing will ever be the same again.

Yet, my day continues on as planned. A presentation for the United Way. A meeting with the Emcee for the fundraiser I am part of planning for the Foundation I work for. It will be tonight.

And in between busy day happenings, my eldest daughter calls to tell me that one of her friends just had a baby and another, who works in the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, has spent the morning lying on the floor of her office.

I am elated about her friend’s baby but have not heard anything further on the news story from this morning. I do not make the connection.

And my daughter becomes upset by my insensitivity. Can I not see how this has changed? Everything. How can I blythely talk about the humorous antics of our Emcee, Bearcat Murray when her friend is terrified for her life and she is concerned about what kind of world has her other friend brought her innocent child into?

And I am reminded of that September day, 13 years ago. That day that changed everything.

I am reminded of hearing the news as I rode the elevator up to my office. How no one was working. Everyone was glued to their computer screens watching the horror unfold on the other side of the continent.

I am reminded of wanting to hold my children safe. Of leaving my office and going to my youngest daughter’s school and taking her out of class for the day. I could not imagine what the future held but I knew that in that moment, I only wanted to hold my daughters close. At the time, my eldest daughter didn’t want to leave her high school classmates. I’m okay mom, she told me when I got to the school to invite her to spend the day with her sister and me. I want to be with my friends right now, she said. We’re talking about it. It’s important.

And so, her sister and I left and enroute home, a girlfriend called in tears. She couldn’t get away from work. Will you go get my son and keep him with you, she asked? Her son is my ‘adopted son’, one of my daughters’ best friends. Of course, I tell her. And suddenly I have my 13 year old daughter and my adopted son and his best friend with me.

We eat pizza. Chatter. I do not turn on the news.

Let’s go to a matinee, I suggest and am horrified and humoured by their choice. I can’t remember the exact film but it was something like Beverly Hills Cop 2. Lots of shoot ’em up, laugh ’em out hijinks that while funny had all too surreal a connection to the events of the day.

I think I am a terrible mother. How could I let these youth see such gratuitous violence on a day when everything was changing, never to be the same again.

And there’s the thing.

Yes, our innocence, our naive belief that terror in the world could not come home to roost was torn apart that day.

But what didn’t change, what can never change, is our capacity as human beings to change it, stop it, create better.

We are creators of war and terror.

We are creators of peace and harmony.

We can do better. We must do better if things are to change for my daughter’s friend’s baby who was born yesterday into a world that is no different than the world was the day before. It is just our understanding of what we are capable of that has changed.

And we are capable of better.

We are capable of peace.

We deserve it. All of us. Every single human being on this planet we share called earth.

 

Haiku for peace

I have been saddened, sickened, worried about the acts of war erupting around the world.

I have been immobilized by my fear, traumatized by my worry, sickened by my helplessness.

I have been consumed by my belief, there is nothing I can do, and my spiralling thoughts of how does this leave the world a better place for my daughters and their children yet to be born.

How does war create peace?

For every bullet that pierces a mother’s child’s body, a seed of rage, anger, regret and loss is sown within the hearts of all humankind.

Where does war end and peace begin?

How do arms held out in battle become arms outstretched in compassion for one another?

Can I find compassion for the warriors and the peace-makers? Can they co-exist on the battlefields of hatred, fear, judgement? Can they find common ground beyond the boundaries of their distrust of one another? Their belief in the righteousness of their cause versus the others?

I have been wrestling with these thoughts for many moons now. Struggling to find calm in the onslaught of violence that erupts everyday from newspaper headlines written in ink bleeding across reams of words claiming the righteousness of our right to carry arms against their wrongful doing.

Where is the right and wrong of war when no matter what side of the battlefield you stand upon, lives are lost, families are torn apart and young men, and now women, carry weapons of mass destruction rendering peace unassailable?

Where is the peace in war?

And so I write. I paint. I create.

I move into that space where loving acceptance of what is consumes me and I become conscious of my capacity to create peace in my world, to light up my world with loving kindness and compassion.

Peace Tree
Peace Tree

Haiku For Peace
©2014 Louise Gallagher

Dawn stalks night’s passage
a morning bird sings hopefully
the new day will awaken.

Night mourns day’s passing
calling for peace to rise up
bombs light up the sky.

Bullets pierce flesh
death falls indiscriminately
mothers cry together.

The morning bird calls
the light of day to awaken
a bud of hope opens.

 

 

How to make the world a better place? Turn up the music.

I am off to my presentation — early start so, rather than write my own blog, I’m sharing my eldest daughter’s blog from today.

Want to make the world a better place? Turn up the music and dance your heart out!

All About Onsies by Lexi McD

This weekend I bought a onesie. I know what you’re thinking – it’s only day 11 and you already went shopping?!

Well, yeah. But in my very short list of exceptions to my year of no shopping (which I forgot to write out here) I gave myself permission to purchase something for each of the five weddings I have this year…so technically, it wasn’t really considered cheating.

The good news is, even if I did break a rule it was a worthwhile investment. Because I am going to wear it to every single wedding I go to ever.  Read more…

Taking time for inner-balance is not a waste of time

The Love Bird Mixed media on canvas 12 x 24"
The Love Bird
Mixed media on canvas
12 x 24″

Ian Munro, at Leading Essentially, writes a provocative post this week about restructuring his “Inner Board of Directors” and how that has helped him to focus on his strengths. One of the exercises Ian gives is to assess your response to a given situation by determining if it drained your energies or pumped you up.  And then, he gives practical advice on how to measure the outcome.

Yesterday, I spent several hours working on finishing a presentation I am giving on Tuesday morning. For me, the quiet and comfort of my office at home provides a more creative space to think in and to imagine. After six hours, I felt I had the framework for a strong presentation (it’s on Community Engagement) with the powerpoint slides created, but not ‘prettied up’. I like the task of creating the presentation. I’m not strong on making it look all pretty. But, I do have a team member who is really, really good at it so I sent it off to them to have the final product polished up when she’s in the office today.

A win/win. I used my creative strengths to build the presentation and today, she’ll use hers to create the actual powerpoint. I did what I love and she gets to do what she loves.

In the past, my IBOD might have been more tyrannical in its insistence that I can do the prettying up of the powerpoint. In the past, I might have listened. I might have believed I needed to do it all. That my worth was based on my ability to not only create the presentation but to do all the work of making it look good.

In a cost/benefit analysis of the presentation, it probably would have taken me an additional six hours, or more, to create the final powerpoint. a) I am rusty on powerpoint creation and all its intricacies and b) I like the ‘telling the story’ part of presentation preparation, not the creating the materials part. In recognizing my strengths and my limitations, I was able to minimize the time I spent doing something that might have drained my energy and left me feeling tired today.

Instead, I feel energized.

Not only did I finish working on a presentation I think will get my message across clearly and inspire others in their community engagement work, I also rewarded myself with several hours in the studio when I was done.

And in that time, I recharged and centered myself in that place where I can once again see, who I am is not measured by the work I do, or even how much I do. Who I am is measured by the passion, love and commitment I bring to whatever I’m doing. When I give my best in the moment of doing, I create my best and that is good enough for me.

It is something I’m becoming very conscious of as I immerse myself once again in the Way of the Monk. Path of the Artist course I’ve been taking with Abbey of the Arts.

When I do not balance, ‘out there’ time with inner work and creative-making space, I am prone to feeling more tired, anxious, despairing even. My thinking runs the gamut of  ‘why bother?” with lots of chatter about my own self-importance rubbing up against thoughts of how unappreciated I feel and other inner nonsense running havoc. Get the gist? I become defeatist in my thinking and narrow-minded in my outlook.  When I am detached from my creative core, my IBOD becomes more anxious and volatile. And then, who knows what kind of all hell breaking loose scenarios I can create?

Yesterday, when I was finished the work I needed to get done to know that I was prepared for my presentation Tuesday morning, (and not feeling anxious about it), I went down to the studio and set myself free to create without any agenda. And The Love Bird appeared.

What a gift. Of time. Of renewal. Of re-charging and inner-balancing.

What are you doing to keep yourself in balance? Where do you need to let the outer doing go to create some inner peace?

 

Giving back is a daily act of grace

Getting directions for the Point In Time Count
Getting directions for the Point In Time Count

We held the Point in Time Count of homelessness in our city last night. 90 volunteers and Calgary Homeless Foundation staff met at 8pm to team up and hit the streets and parks and alleyways to take a count of people experiencing homelessness. At the same time, over 80 agency facilities and institutions provided their data of people they were sheltering with ‘no fixed address’ so that we could get an accurate view of homelessness. For the first time, six other cities in the province joined Calgary on this first ever pan-Alberta count of homelessness.

We don’t have a tally of the numbers yet, but we are concerned. Alberta’s vibrant economy, Calgary’s recognized leadership in the sector and its pro-active and compassionate response to homelessness mean people come to our city everyday looking for work, housing and support. There’s work. There’s support. There’s just not a lot of affordable housing.

Before I met up with the team at the City Hall Atrium where the volunteers were mustering, I gave a talk about the United Way of Calgary and Area and the benefits and imperative of giving back. The event was hosted by Rock Energy, a junior oil and gas exploration company here in Calgary. This is the second year, Rock President, Allen Bey and his team have held the event and given the 100+ people present and the $54,000 and still rising donated when I left, it was a huge success.

Rock’s idea for creating an opportunity for their team and business suppliers and partners to join together and build community is brilliant.

Hold it in one of the swankiest clubs in town. Have great food. Ample libations with taxi chits for everyone to get home safely. Set up gambling tables around the room and provide everyone $100,000 in play money to gamble with. The price of entry? A donation to the United Way. And, before the fun begins, have a guest speaker from the United Way to bring home the message, we are all in this together.

That’s where I came in. I was the guest speaker.

As I began my talk I told the crowd about where I was going after I left the event. To the Point in Time Count of homelessness. From the Petroleum Club to the streets. It’s not a long walk, but it can be devastating.

And that’s why everyone was gathered together. To make the walk off the streets easier. To ensure that those who were taking it didn’t get lost in homelessness and despair. And, to ensure the United Way has the resources it needs to be catalysts of social change that will truly create a great city for everyone.

It was also a great evening to connect. To enjoy eachother’s company. To have fun. And, to give back. And in the giving back, connect to a greater sense of purpose in our community and be part of building a city that supports people in times of need and identifies what needs to change to ensure no one falls through the cracks on the road of life.

In Allen Bey’s opening remarks he stated that giving back to community is an essential part of living a life of purpose. And we all want to do that.

For the volunteers who came out to support the Point in Time count, giving back is in their DNA. There were police and bylaw officers who donated their time. There were mothers and fathers with their daughters and sons, social sector workers, agency partners all of whom gave up their night to come out and lend a hand so that we could understand the shifts and dynamics of homelessness in our city.

Giving back is easy. All it takes is a commitment to do something, anything that makes a difference, and then, go do it. But here’s the secret, to really get the benefits of giving back, you have to keep stretching your compassion muscles. You have to keep the giving back drive active.

The act can be as small as sharing a smile with a stranger on the street, holding the door open for someone behind you, paying for the next person’s coffee in the drive through at Tim Horton’s to donating time and money to a cause that inspires you. You can sit on the board of a charity whose mission aligns with your purpose or simply sign up to volunteer to serve a meal at an emergency shelter.

Again, the secret is to keep doing it.

Yes, one off donations of time, talents and treasures are important. But to truly feel the deep and lasting benefits of giving, it’s best to keep the heart open and the mind inspired by acts of daily grace.

 

 

 

Just because I’m homeless doesn’t mean I’m bad.

Mayor Nenshi addresses the crowd
Mayor Nenshi addresses the crowd

While each of us is unique, there are no unique circumstances in homelessness. No matter who you are, or how you got there, homelessness harms everyone. It destroys dignity. Breaks down self-respect. Rips apart self-worth.

Discrimination is a common occurrence when you’re homeless. People look at you as less than, other than, something different than a ‘regular’ human being and not worthy of common decency.

People drive by and spit at you out car windows. They call you names. They cross the street to avoid walking on the same side as you are on.

When you’re homeless, instability is the foundation of your life. Will there be a bed for me tonight? Will I get robbed of my few possessions? Will I get beaten up for taking up someone else’s space I didn’t know was theirs? Will a gang of kids think it’s a cool idea to throw gasoline on me and watch me burn? Will someone decide they don’t like the way I’m looking at them and decide to teach me a lesson?

When you’re homeless, there are no written rules of engagement except the one that says, you must survive.

When you’re homeless, you don’t have the luxury of depending upon each breath following the next. You never know when the breath you just took will be your last.

I am always amazed when people in the broader community tell me they are afraid of people experiencing homelessness. “What do you think they will do?” I ask.

“They’ll attack me. Take what I’ve got because they want it more.”

“That’s unlikely to happen,” I tell them. “When did you last hear of someone iin homelessness randomly attacking someone on the street?”

“Well…” They usually pause here to search their brains for a memory of a story about such a situation. They come up blank.

It just isn’t the way it is.

What is true is that when you’re homeless, you are vulnerable. No matter the colour of your skin, your faith, your culture, homelessness is a vulnerable state of being and while someone may not be stalking ‘normal folk’ to attack, they are at risk of being attacked. Both by ‘normal folk’ and those in the homeless community.

Keeping a low profile is essential when you’re living the homeless experience. It’s important to not attract too much attention because attention gets you in trouble. Attention leaves you exposed and visible. And being visible is not a healthy state of being in homelessness.

On Friday, we held a World Homeless Awareness Day event here in Calgary. Our Mayor came and gave an impassioned speech talking about the need for affordable housing. Affordable Housing is The Key our posters read.

And it is. You can’t end homelessness without a home to go to.

The challenge is, people often don’t want people with lived experience of homelessness living in their communities.

My property value will drop, they tell me. Crime will rise. Parking will be a mess.

I show them the research. Talk to them about the right of everyone to have a home. The need for diversity in our communities.

And still, underlying it all is the fear that because that person is different than me, because they carry a label I’m unable or unwilling to see beyond, they will harm my way of life. They will want what I’ve got and take it from me.

Homelessness is not the issue. Our misconceptions, our perceptions and our judgements are.

In his speech, Mayor Nenshi stated, “Homelessness sucks!”

He’s right.

It does.

And you know what else sucks?

Our belief that those who are living in homelessness are different than, other than you and me.

The only difference between us is that their issues are on the surface. They are visible for all of us to see that life is fragile. Life is unpredictable and the only way through it is to count on one another, hold true to our belief in the dignity and majesty of the human being and celebrate our differences and our similarities.

And we can’t do that when we cross to the other side of the street to avoid walking past someone whose pain is visible on our streets.

 

 

Westjet rocks the skies — and customer service!

“I went to Vancouver,” my co-worker, Aaron tells me when I ask him about his Thanksgiving weekend.

I am surprised. I don’t recall him talking about plans to go away.

He laughs. “I was only there for twenty minutes.”

It was just one of those things.

His sister and two friends had gone for a ‘girls’ weekend away, leaving their husbands at home for a couple of nights with their small children. At the airport, all set to board the plane for their return flight home, his sister discovered her wallet had been stolen.

Panic set in.

Tearful, angst ridden phone calls. Cries of help. Brother and father converge at the Calgary airport in a desperate attempt to get their loved one home to her family for Thanksgiving dinner. Enroute to the airport, the father picks-up his daughter’s passport from her husband while Aaron checks out options to fly to Vancouver to deliver it. At this point, they’re not thinking about the cost. It’s all about getting her home to her family.

Westjet was amazing,” he tells me.

Who knew they have a 25% policy for situations such as this?

“I couldn’t believe how understanding they were,” he says. Not only did they give him a 75% discount on the fare, they put him on the next flight and upgraded all four return tickets to business class for the return flight home, which happened after Aaron’s 20 minute stop-over.

Way to go Westjet! It’s no wonder you were inducted into Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures Hall of Fame.

Who wouldn’t be proud of working for a company that treats distressed passengers with such good care?

As for Aaron, it gave him an even greater appreciation of what happens to people on the margins. “My sister had options. She had people jumping in to help her. When I got off the plane, they were all three standing at the gate waiting for me, crying. Her friends wouldn’t leave her alone and Westjet didn’t insist they catch their original flight. They rebooked us all together on a different flight, without charging them. But, even though my sister knew I was bringing her passport, she still felt lost and really scared. What if she never got home?”

I remember when a mix-up with my passport left me stranded in New York City for a couple of days. When the Canadian consulate told me  they couldn’t help me, I started to cry. Even though I had my wallet, credit cards and money in my bank account, I still felt lost and alone. I feared they’d never let me out of the country, even though they deemed I was there illegally.

At the time, I wandered the streets of New York feeling hopeless. I tried to visit a church, it was locked. I stopped for a tea and when the waiter asked if he could get me anything else, I started to cry. I remembered all the people at the homeless shelter where I worked at that time. How they continually came up against doors closing, people telling them, no, we can’t help you get ID without a fixed address, or open a bank account, or get government assistance. No, you can’t go there, do that, sit on that, talk like that.

It was a reminder of how blessed I am, and how fragile some people’s lives are.

Aaron’s sister never planned to have her wallet stolen. She never planned to need the help of her family to get her home. And she never anticipated that an airline would step in and do whatever it could to help her through a situation they had no part in creating.

Yet, there they all were. Her family, friends, and an airline that wouldn’t leave her stranded.

For those on the margins, stranded in that place called homeless, without resources, at a loss on what to do next, sometimes, the only people standing by to help are in places called Emergency Shelters. In the emergencies they find themselves lost within, it is in those places where caring people reach out to say, “Here, let me help you shoulder the load,” that they find themselves again on the road of life, taking those first steps back to where they belong, that place called home.

Aaron’s sister made it home, just as I did long ago.

For the thousands who have not yet found their way, I am grateful there are places such as the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre and the Mustard Seed and Alpha House and a host of other agencies filled with caring people committed to ensuring that those who are stranded with no way home, are not lost forever on the streets of Calgary.

In all things, there is Love

IMG_6057I am grateful.

We were 18 for dinner on Sunday night. Family. Friends. Newcomers to our table.

It was perfect. It was Thanksgiving and we were a community giving thanks together.

Growing up, Thanksgiving in our house was always a time of bountiful food, family and sharing. My parents loved to entertain and we four children knew, no matter how late one of us extended an invitation, they would graciously welcome newcomers into our midst and make room at the table. There was always laughter, great food, wine, conversation and music at my parents table. It was where their spirits shone brightest.

When they met, my mother didn’t know how to cook. My father taught her. And then, she learned a few of her own tricks and together they shared in the passion of creating fabulous celebrations to which our friends often lobbied for an invitation. My father would lord it over her in the kitchen, but my mother learned to hold her ground, insisting the food not only pleased the palate but also the eyes. Her tables were beautiful, with pressed linens and fresh flowers, matching stemware and silverware, everything themed to the occasion.

It is where my mother and I differ the most. I love a beautiful table but enjoy a more eclectic sense, my artistic nature shying away from traditional for a more free-flowing look and feel. C.C. says it’s just like my cooking. “Free-styling” he calls it. No need for a recipe. Just go with the flow. 🙂

Last night, we were all in the flow of connecting around a table laden with food, our hearts full of the love that stirs when people sit together and share in a meal that has been lovingly prepared by each other. Everyone brought a dish. Everyone took great care to make their dish special. My friend Tamz came and helped decorate the house and at each place setting I  placed a leaf I’d collected and painted and written a word on. After dinner, each person was invited to say something about the word on their leaf that expressed their gratitude.

We went around the table and shared our thoughts and feelings of the words such as “Harmony”, “Laughter”, “Grace”, “Perspective”, “Nature”, “Home”, “Prosperity”, “Health”, “Joy”. Whether funny or serious, within each sharing was a sense of profound gratitude and connection to one another through the gratitude that fills our hearts.

It is good that once a year we are reminded to stop and breathe and give thanks.

It is good that we acknowledge the things we are grateful for, and the people in our lives for whom we give thanks.

It is good that within each of us there is this deep place that knows who we are shines brightest in our connections to one another.

It is good that we stop and acknowledge that which binds us together, connects us and keeps us safe.

It is good that we give thanks for the Love that illuminates our hearts and creates such abundance in our lives.

Seated around the table, listening to the conversation and the laughter, sharing stories and hopes and dreams I was reminded once again that in all things I am grateful. Because in all things, there is Love.